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272                             THE GAY GENIUS

boats to save what they could. The wet rice which they salvaged could
still be fried, and the stalks were given to feed the buffaloes. Some-
thing had to be done, and done quickly.

Su Tungpo planned far ahead, although it required no great talent.
to know what was coming. He had always believed in price stabilisa-
tion rather than in relief after famine came, and he worked steadily
to get more rice for the government granaries in order to fight off tfjft
coming famine. As the rains continued without let-up, he became more
and more desperate. In the course of half a year, beginning from July,
he sent seven reports to the Empress and to the government, outlining
the actual conditions and urging the need for prompt action. The first
two papers were called "Reports on Natural Calamity, I and II", and
the last five were called "Reports on Famine Relief", but the seven
letters formed one passionate and impatient clamour for help. He kept
up this clamour until everybody at court was annoyed. His impatience,
was highly un-Chinese. A number of commissioners were on die spdff
They had said not a word. What was Su Tungpo shouting about?
What was so surprising about a little more rain than unsual? He was
digging his own political grave.

But he believed an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure.
By building up grain reserves, either locally or by importation from
other regions, in anticipation of a grain shortage, and selling it to force
prices down, famine could be prevented. Famine relief by doling out
food to starving and sick people was always wasteful, futile, and never
touched more than the surface of human misery; the thing was to
prevent it. Clear-minded men who think ahead of their times arej
always impatient. He pointed out that in the year 1075 nobody dia
anything about it until the great famine arrived. Then Emperor
Shentsung had to give a million and a quarter piculs of rice in order
to set up soup kitchens and distribute food to the poor, and even then
half a million people died. Apart from the human misery involved, the
government lost a total of $3,200,000 in actual relief cost, in remission
of taxes, and in loss of revenue. Compared with that, Su Tungpo
pointed out that in the previous year, with one-sixth of the amount of
rice, he had been able to stabilise prices and stave off a famine. Now,
the second famine promised to be worse than the first, for it was like
a patient suffering from relapse of a disease. The people's little reserve*
of grain was dwindling. Something must be done immediately.

The curious thing was, nobody was concerned except Su Tungpo.
He read the court bulletins in a rage. Many local commissioners in
Chekiang and neighbouring provinces had reported only the good
promise of crops in the springóbut none had reported about the refcent
rainstorms and the floods. Su asked permission to divert the money
for repairs of government buildings to purchase of rice, for famine